Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA) Pray for a Persecuted Church
 Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA)Pray for a Persecuted Church

Latest News

Lawyers from Mr. Modi's intelligence agency say they do not have a sipping straw for jailed 83 yo Jesuit priest to drink water

Nov 27 UCA News

An elderly Jesuit priest in detention in an Indian jail has moved court for regular bail after his application to use a straw or sipper to drink water and other liquids was rejected. Father Stan Swamy, 84, has been in a Mumbai prison, since Oct. 9. The activist priest is accused of sedition and links with outlawed Maoist rebels among other offenses and charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a federal anti-terror combat unit.
The priest, who is suffering from many age-related problems including Parkinson's disease, approached the special NIA court on Nov. 6 seeking permission to use a straw or sipper as he could not drink any liquid because of his shaking hands.
When it came up for hearing on Nov. 26, the NIA did not respond to the application positively and the request was rejected..... 

Christian villagers attacked by mob in India. Police claim revelry turned violent but Christians say they were attacked for their faith.

Nov 26 UCA News

Police are investigating a violent attack on indigenous Christian villagers in India’s Chhattisgarh state in which 15 persons were injured, four of them seriously.
The seriously injured have been admitted to a government hospital and the rest were discharged after receiving first aid following the Nov. 25 attack
“The Christians were attacked at 2am while they were asleep after a community function in their village of Chinghavaram, under Gadiras police station, in Sukma district,” Pastor Chinnam Wycliff Sagar told UCA News on Nov. 26.
“A group of close to 50 attackers armed with iron rods and lathis [sticks] attacked them without any provocation.”
Police registered a case against 16 persons and began a probe into what they believe is a case of revelry that turned violent.....

Pressure from Mr. Modi's Hindu nationalists risks demolition of a 800 y-o Orthodox church in Kerala to make way for Hwy 66.  

Nov 26 Asia News

Recently the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) finalised plans to extend National Highway (NH) 66, which would require tearing down part of the church.
Activists and Christian groups have geared up for a fight to save the building, which has over 800 years of history behind it. According to scholars, the church – famous for the antiquities and mural paintings on the walls of the apse (Madbaha) – dates back to the 12th century.
“The authorities have laid stones marking the new alignment of the NH. Half the church building will have to be demolished and it will not be possible to retain the rest of the structure, including the apse,” said Fr Alexander Vattakkattu, vicar of the church.
Initially, he added, “The authorities fixed the initial alignment avoiding the church. But they changed it, we think, under pressure.”  ....

Read the Story also in Indian Express

Latest News

Poor Dalit Christians driven out by villagers return, but threat lingers. 

Nov 17 UCA News:

Christians live together in a temporary shelter as they lack the confidence to stay in their damaged homes
Some 100 Christians have returned to their villages in India's Chhattisgarh state following a court order, almost two months after they were attacked and driven out of their homes.
The state High Court in Bilaspur last week ordered the Kondagaon district administration to facilitate the safe return of the displaced Christians from three villages and to ensure their protection.
"We have returned to our villages as the court has ordered our protection," Shiv Ram, one of the petitioners to the court, told UCA News on Nov. 17.
Ram said all 66 Christians from 10 families driven out of his Kakrabeda village have returned to the village. Some 30 Christians from six families, who fled from two other villages, also have returned, he said.
A mob of suspected Hindu right-wing activists attacked 16 houses in three villages in the state's Bastar region on Sept. 22 and 23. The attack came after Christians refused a demand to abandon ....

Hindus aim to deny benefits to India's tribal Christians.

Nov 17 UCA News

Catholic leaders accuse groups of defying the constitution and confusing caste with religion
Right-wing Hindu groups in India have urged the federal government to bar tribal Christians from benefiting from a scheme intended for indigenous people.
The groups, who started the campaign early this month and have submitted a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were condemned by Catholic leaders.
“Caste and religion are two different things which can’t be mixed. By birth we belong to a particular caste but religion is one’s choice. People who are campaigning against tribal Christians are ignorant of the Indian constitution,” Father Nicholas Barla, secretary of the Indian bishops' Commission for Tribal Affairs, told UCA News.
“Article 25 of the constitution grants us the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health. The federal government’s scheme for tribal people is only to help them socially and economically.......

Pray for my fellow prisoners, says Fr. Stan. 

Nov 16 Asia News

A prayer for his fellow prisoners: this is the request from Fr. Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Jesuit, arrested for "Maoist terrorism", but in reality because he has been defending the life and rights of tribals in Jharkhand for years.
In a letter that the priest managed to send to his friend, human rights activist Jonh Dayal, he says that his cellmates all come from "very poor families", and that they help with his daily needs. Fr Stan, in addition to the problems of age, is suffering from Parkinson's disease, which means he cannot wash or eat alone. His cellmates help him bathe, wash his linen and feed him. For the priest these are signs that "despite everything, humanity overflows in Taloja prison".
Fr Stan, who was transferred from Ranchi to Mumbai, had sought release on bail for health reasons, but it was not granted. Both the Catholic church and human rights groups have petitioned on his behalf.
The priest says that in the same prison there are some other activists, such as Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, with whom he meets in moments of recreation. All of them are in prison in ...

Latest News

Special Court refuses bail to Fr. Stan. Prison refuses to accept blankets sent for the 84 y-o Jesuit

Nov 8 UCA News

A special court in India has further extended the judicial custody of an elderly Jesuit priest facing sedition charges.
The court of th National Investigation Agency (NIA) based in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra state in western India, extended the judicial custody of Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old social activist, for another 21 days to Nov. 26 when the case will be heard again.
The same court on Oct. 23 had directed the priest's personal appearance in the court. However, officials did not produce him reportedly on account of his advanced age and the Covid-19 threat.
Officials of the NIA, a federal anti-terror combat unit, arrested Father Swamy on Oct. 8 from his residence on the outskirts of Ranchi, Jharkhand's capital in eastern India.
He is accused of sedition and having links .... 

Hindu groups want to deny benefits to Indian tribal Christians. 

Nov 5, UCA News

The move is part of an organized campaign to stop the conversion of tribal people to Christianity
Right-wing Hindu groups in India have stepped up a campaign seeking to strip tribal Christians of government concessions with the aim of stopping more indigenous people converting to Christianity.
A group of right-wing Hindu activists marched through Jhabua town in the central state of Madhya Pradesh on Nov. 4. They shouted slogans asking the government to remove tribal people who have converted to Christianity from the list of beneficiaries.
"The benefits of reservation meant for tribal people should strictly be given to only those who have not converted to any other religion," protest leader Azad Prem Singh told media.
India's constitution guarantees social benefits such as reserved ...

Construction of makeshift Hindu temple is a targeted attempt to intimidate Christians.

Nov 5 Christianity Today

Demolition of a two-decade-old concrete cross and construction of a makeshift temple just 200 meters away from the cross seemed like a targeted event against Christians for villagers in Madanpur, Chhattisgarh.
In the hillock of Madanpur village was a popular cross that gathered villagers and people from nearby areas for prayers, especially during the Lenten season.
When the cross was destroyed, the villagers at first did not know what led to the destruction.
Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, maintained that the land on which the cross stood was "not officially owned by the Church but the Christian villagers have used it for many years and the local villagers never objected to its use." 
He told UCA News that “The sudden destruction of the cross is..... ..

Latest News

Religious fanatics attack a lonely Christian woman, drag her to police station at night.

Nov 4 Christian Today

In a heart wrenching incident in Madhya Pradesh, a young Christian woman was attacked by a group of religious fanatics who dragged her to the police station at night.
Maya (name changed for security reasons), found herself trapped between a couple of policemen and a group of religious men, who were shouting threats and accusing her of forced conversions.
Maya is well known by her neighbors after her prayers healed a girl from her sickness. Many even experienced breakthroughs in their lives after receiving prayers from Maya.
While she prayed, she also visited people to know their conditions.
During one such visit to her sister's house to get an update about the neighbor kid she was praying for, Maya was spotted by religious goons in the area. They surrounded her, accused her of forced conversions and took her to the police station......” 

Christians stage massive sit-in protest over Tawang church issue.

Nov 4 Matters India 

Hundreds of Christians belonging to various denominations in Arunachal Pradesh November 2 staged a sit-in to demand “justice for Tawang church.”
The sloganeering protesters, under the aegis of the Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF), demanded that the government of the northeastern Indian state approve land allotment for construction of churches in Tawang.
On October 6, Tawang Revival Church pastor Joseph Singhi was arrested for constructing “an illegal” church. The police acted on a First Information Report filed by the district land revenue and survey officer
The arrest sparked widespread condemnation from the Christian community in the state.
Singhi was later released on bail and the police recorded the statements of eight other members who had accompanied him. Addressing the protest November 2 ....

OPINION: The office of the Indian Prime Minister Modi sending emails soliciting funds for the Political party is highly unethical but no surprise

Nov 3 National Herald 

The revelation in the investigation carried out by The Quint that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sent emails in a roundabout manner requesting the users of the PMO’s official ID Sampark.gov.in for contribution to BJP funds, may seem highly unethical and violating all norms of separating government from the ruling Party, but for the BJP leadership, this sort of using official agencies for party purposes has become most natural in the last six years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule.
Sampark.gov.in is the official PR ID used for sending mails from the Prime Minister’s Office. It has been found that at least one lot of emails generated by the PMO's sampark.gov.in ID has allegedly been used to collect funds for the BJP. Use of government machinery to collect funds for a political...

Latest News

Christian leaders oppose media attacks on missionaries.

Nov 2 Christian Today

Christian leaders in Madhya Pradesh are fighting a new media trend where Hindu media is publishing fabricated stories in order to tarnish the image of Christian missionaries in the country.
On October 28, Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore along with a delegation of Christian leaders met with the editor of the Nai Duniya, a mass circulation daily. They asked the editor to take corrective measures after a series of articles against Christians appeared in the daily in September and October "maligning the Christian community." These articles accused Christian missionaries of engaging in conversion activities of socially poor Dalit and tribal people using foreign funds.
"Initially, we did not bother, but when it continued to publish defamatory articles against us without any base, we thought ...” 

35-y-o Christian shot dead by Hindu nationalists of Modi's party in Punjab. 

Nov 2 Christian Today

A 35-year-old Christian man was shot dead and three others were injured in a deadly attack on a Pentecostal church in Amritsar, Punjab.
According to reports from UCA news, seven unknown assailants opened fire on Christians when they were leaving the church after a special prayer meeting on October 23.
"Four persons armed with guns entered the church and opened fire at us. I laid flat on the ground and saved my life," Jaspal Masih, son of the church pastor, told UCA News.
Masih's cousin Prince Atwal, 35, died on the spot after he was shot in the head and chest.
Local police have arrested three of the seven attackers and are searching for the rest.
According to Manish, Randeep Gill, who had previously disrupted a prayer meeting on alleged charges of religious .....

Church set on fire by extremists after Christians refused to stop worshipping together

Nov 2 Christian Today

Suspected Hindu extremists set fire to a church in India's Andhra Pradesh state, burning it to the ground because local Christians refused to stop worshiping together.
On Sept. 8, neighbors of the Christian Miracle Church, located in Ponduru town, reported flames and smoke coming out of the church building, persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reports.
Pastor Prabhu Das, who has led Christian Miracle Church for nearly 38 years, and his son, Jeevan, arrived on the scene in time to witness flames engulf the church building. The pastor's car was also destroyed.
Following the arson attack, the pastor filed a formal complaint with police against the unknown assailants. His son told ICC that Hindu extremists had previously threatened the ...

INDIA WORKING GROUP

(Part of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable/Washington DC)

 

October 26, 2020

To:

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State

Washington D.C.

 

Dear Mr. Secretary,

India Working Group is a part of the IRF Roundtable in Washington DC. We are a multifaith group with Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, and Ahmadi, faiths working towards the idea of freedom of religion and expression in India.

 

We would like to bring the case of Fr. Stan Swamy, an 83-year old Jesuit Priest in India, to your immediate attention. He was arrested on October 8 by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) on false charges and is being held without bail under a law that grants unlimited powers to the police in the name of national security.

 

Fr. Stan was clearly arrested for political reasons: He has been a major voice of reason on behalf of the indigenous tribal people across the tribal belt of India and their land rights. He has worked all his life to educate and help pass several laws to protect the land rights of the tribal population.

 

Historically, tribal people in remote parts of India are entitled to their land and self-rule. This right was given to them during the British rule. When India became independent, their lands came to be protected and expressly enshrined in the Constitution of India. These constitutional provisions are somewhat similar to the rights and administrative responsibilities under treaties governing Indian reservations in the United States.

 

Moreover, Article 13 (3) (a) of the Indian Constitution validates the traditional and customary rights and practices of the tribal people as law, with the same effect as laws or ordinances passed by elected and appointed bodies of government. It is an important constitutional provision that empowers the tribal people to assert their traditional self-rule in the so-called Scheduled Areas inhabited by them.

 

Article 244 (1)  under the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution provides the tribal villagers the authority to independently administer their resources.

 

Many villages where tribal people live vociferously assert these constitutional rights against encroachments by private companies (or even local governments). They do so by erecting a stone inscription locally known as Pathalgadi -- literally meaning carved/written in stone -- at the entrance to their village declaring that the lands belong to the specified tribe.

 

This movement has come to be referred to as Pathalgadi movement.

However, of late, Prime Minister Modi’s BJP government has been wanting to assert the rights of elected bodies to pass laws that would supersede the constitutional provisions that protect the rights of the tribal people.

 

The BJP governments, at both the state and national levels, want to transfer these constitutionally protected lands to private mining companies through legislations favoring the rights of the state and corporations.

 

In May 2016, the Modi government passed two legislations which enabled transfer of tribal land to the government as well as to commercial interests. This act of the government set in motion a series of events which helped the Pathalgadi movement regain its prominence. The Tribal people called their struggle Jal-Jungle-Jameen (water-forest-land). As the government showed no signs of respecting their rights, the tribal villages even boycotted the 2019 Indian General Election. But the newly re-elected Modi government began cracking down on the movement.

 

The crackdown was so brutal that by mid-2019, many tribal people and their leaders either went underground or publicly disassociated themselves from the Pathalgadi movement out of fear of arrest or harassment by the government. Some tribal areas witnessed more than 10% of the population getting arrested and charged under sedition laws.

 

In addition, the Modi government branded the movement as being anti-development and hence anti-national. Some of the tribal people in the forefront of this movement were branded as ‘Maoists’ working to overthrow elected governments. People like Fr. Stan became a prominent voice on behalf of the rights of the indigenous people against greedy corporations and were charged falsely with instigating violence to overthrow an elected government.

 

The National Investigating Agency (NIA) also says that Fr. Stan is responsible for the violence that took place in a place called Bhima Koregaon in the State of Maharashtra in 2017, during an annual event (celebrating the victory of British and Dalit forces over Brahmin Peshwas), because Fr. Stan knew some organizers of that peace rally.

 

So, the Modi government is branding Fr. Stan and 15 other writers and activists for tribal rights as Maoist insurgents working against the interest of the state. He and others are accused of engineering the violence during the peace rally!

Unfortunately, Fr. Stan is not alone. Any person in India, whether they are journalists, poets, writers, peace activists, religious leaders, student leaders, politicians or even government officials in some cases, are at risk of being branded anti-national and charged under sedition or terrorism laws for speaking out or inconveniencing the Modi government and his Hindu nationalist party.

 

Modi government brand the peace activists as a front variously inspired by Maoists, Christian evangelicals, or opium cultivators and resort to its favorite strategy – arresting and jailing all outspoken leaders, many of whom come from educated middle class tribal families. By arresting Fr. Stan, they are also branding the church in India as anti-national for speaking on behalf of vulnerable people – a win-win for the Hindu nationalist party.

 

The Government of India headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP party have clearly embarked on a course that will transform India irrevocably into an intolerant fundamentalist state in the name of Hinduism.

 

Mr. Secretary, we believe it is very important that the United States understand the root cause of the problem and speak out strongly against Hindu nationalism, however inconvenient that may seem. The United States must stop accepting the Modi government’s public relations spin on the grave developments in India. Failing to do so will irrevocably jeopardize peace in that region as well as America’s long-term interest in that part of the world -- like the one we are witnessing in South China Sea region now.

 

Unfortunately, expression of private concerns or even warnings expressed privately behind closed doors do not work with Mr. Modi and his party. They listen only to public rebuke by their friends and allies. They care about their public image in the West. Unless you say something in public, they will ignore whatever you tell them in private.

 

In closing, we urge you to speak out both in private and in pubic about the continuing violations of human rights and religious freedom in India as already spelled out in detail by USCIRF. We urge you to demand that India immediately release all the prisoners of conscience, starting with the release of Fr. Swamy and the Bhima Koregaon Sixteen.

 

(Endorsed by Member organizations of India Working Group)

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